Steve Wall On Surviving The Music Industry

[Background: I went to college in Galway between 1989 and 1993 and amongst the Stone Roses, My Bloody Valentine, Charlatans, House of Love, Wedding Present and Ride cassettes lay a tattered and much loved 'Paradise In The Picturehouse' by the Stunning]

Earlier this week I received an email from Steve Wall (now of the Walls, formerly of the Stunning) about his new EP and the free download that I could post to the site. I was taken a bit by surprise because my impression of Steve was that he belonged in the category of Irish dinosaurs that includes Aslan and U2’s manager. A band of not so merry men that make fools of themselves every time they open their mouth about how the internet has shaped the music industry (negatively in their eyes) we have today. I’d read an article about Steve and couldn’t believe how out of touch and bitter he was on the subject. So his email earned a quick reply where I quizzed him on his startling turn around. The biggest problem with the thrust of my argument was that I couldn’t find the article in question which made it more difficult to put the specifics of it to him. Within minutes I had received a reply where Steve outlined how he’d always been pro-internet and before that pro-fan. Leaving aside my doubts he did make some interesting points and I asked if he’d allow me to post them to the blog. Perhaps not all of Ireland’s rock royalty view us as amateur crims.

Below Steve’s piece you can download the pretty ‘Bird In A Cage’ and watch a video for one of the Stunning’s classics ‘Heads’. KD

Hi Kevin,

In response to your your opinion of The Walls being a bit behind the times regarding the golden age of the internet and “anti anything that was on the web” allow me to set out my stall and put a few things straight.

I’ve no memory of the article where I was quoted on illegal downloading. Very often these quotes can totally misrepresent someone as they often take a line here and there and they often get used out of context. I’ve seen loads of interviews I’ve done in the past where things haven’t come across properly and it’s been totally down to editing. Anyway,  I’m totally in touch with what’s been happening online for years. We embraced the internet from the get-go and have been signed up to all the various music sites that have come and gone and the ones that are still hanging on. The Walls internet presence has been quite healthy with our own website, Facebook, YouTube, MySpace and my current favourite, Bandcamp. There are loads of others too numerous to mention and many are a complete waste of time. I think the Blog sites are great. I already know the one’s you’ve mentioned (2 U I Bestow, Harmless Noise). (And incidentally, I disagree with IMRO’s attempt to charge bloggers for streaming music.) I think choosing to give away free MP3’s is a great way to introduce people to new music. The only thing I have ever waxed negative about is the illegal sharing of albums which is hurting everyone but especially the smaller artists and labels.

The record companies and retailers shot themselves in the foot over the years by overcharging for music. Back in 1990, The Stunning took a brave approach by printing onto the artwork of our first album “Pay No More than £5″. This was purely because we didn’t want them to overcharge for our album as well. You wouldn’t believe the shit that ensued at the time. A lot of shops refused to stock it as they were afraid other bands would start to do the same. But in the end they had no choice as the album was selling by the bucketload nationwide. It’s funny how a lot of fans still mention this to me today as it really meant something to them at the time, but the industry never acknowledged an Irish band sticking their neck on the block and winning. Can you imagine U2 doing that!

The Stunning were also one of the first (maybe the first) bands in Ireland to record on our own label and own our own masters. We set up Rainy Day Productions around 1988 and licensed our first album to Solid Records, all paid for with gig money. We also refused to sign away our publishing, despite many offers which was a godsend. So nowadays when I read some new artist blabbing on about the DIY approach like it’s something new, I have to laugh.

We’ve always given away free MP3’s since we went online. Just like we often gave away cd singles and 7″ vinyls in the past. They’re like a business card and a sample of wares. As you know a lot of money goes into making and especially promoting an album. We spend our hard-earned dough on Irish studios, Irish engineers, pressing plants, graphic designers, photographers, PR companies etc. We put our money back into the economy here, so it certainly helps to keep the wheels moving if people pay for a release. There are some artists that have no problem with free downloading but they’re usually lucky enough to be doing well on the international live circuit. For many Irish acts it’s a struggle and the lack of new Irish music on the radio makes it even harder. Irish daytime radio is becoming increasingly out of touch and there’ll be a whole generation of kids who won’t ever think of turning it on.

So without radio airplay here Irish artists have only the internet to turn to and have to constantly think of new ways to grab attention. Unbeknownst to you bloggers, we’ve been doing various versions of this same shit for years and have seen a good few things come and go. Some artists are expert at self promotion and gaining thousands of “likes” online.  But the one mantra we keep repeating to ourselves is “it starts with the music”. And great music is always worth something.

Best,
Steve

The Walls – Bird In A Cage

More Info: Official
Buy Songs: The Walls
Year: 2011

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7 Comments

  1. I’d never seen the video for this. That barber dude is Chick something or other who used to train Francie Barrett the boxer. I always liked that tune ‘Half past Two’ that The Stunning did. In fairness they’ve been plugging away non-stop for years, not like the dubious Something Happens, Whipping Boy reunions etc. BTW I’m still lurking, just keeping ciúin, keep up the good work Kev. GM

    • hugger:

      I get the odd hanker for Matt Vinyl every now and then. Great to see you are still angling for Larry Gogan’s chair!

  2. Mike:

    Fair play to you for posting this. Right to reply and honesty are sadly lacking from all too many blogs nowadays. The Walls have always plugged away despite not have a major label machine behind them and have led the way in embracing new technologies and bringing their music to us all in different ways and means as they develop. Video games, adverts, soundtracks, jingles and are currently rocking a really clever and innovative interactive two man live show which uses video and projection to great effect. I saw them in Killarney lately and was blown away by the concept and the execution and most of all, the cheap ticket price!

  3. Sean:

    Good honest response from Steve. I’ve been a fan for many years and it’s a shame that great albums like New Dawn and Hi-Lo simply don’t get the recognition that they deserve. Long may Steve and Joe continue to produce quality tunes and quality lyrics. Irish bands need more recognition. Why is it that a band has to break the UK before an Irish radio station could be a**d to vent the songs and pay attention?

    Looking forward to the next full Walls album. The EP is great.

  4. Greg:

    Steve’s take on the plight of a band trying to make a living out of music is as succinctly put as I’ve ever seen. Music doesn’t come cheap, even if you can record it yourself and if bands like the Walls givew it away for nothing then we, as a community of music lovers, owe it to them to support them by buying their albums and going to see them live. Fair play to you for letting him have his say.

  5. Jon Richards:

    Steve and Joe Wall are spot on with their observations, as musicians they have been always embraced new ideas and technologies proof of the pudding is their excellent new show, it really is outstanding. Their points about Irish radio are also true, there is a real danger that the promotion of new talent will be stamped out by music programmers who quite frankly have no idea of what a good song really is. Of course there is always a balance to maintain but finding that balance is a skill that is sadly lacking within the industry. At Galway Bay fm with the support of CEO Keith Finnegan, we have undertaken to promote an initiative called ‘Play Irish’ in association with I.A.S.C.A (Irish Association of Songwriters, Composers & Authors) run by Sinead Troy. It is a gamble for us but if we don’t step outside our comfort zone ie: classic shits non stop, we will never grow new talent, again it’s all about balancing. I could write a thesis on this whole subject. Jon Richards Galway Bay fm

  6. Mojo:

    The fact is The Stunning should never have broken up , the Walls music just does not compare to The Stunning .The Stunning were not just the Walls and a good backing band , it was a mistake to think they could have been bigger without them . The Walls music played by the stunning would have been far better with Cormac on drums and for me the best in the stunning was the lead guitar Derek . New stunning songs now would be the way to go .

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